We're a little tardy in noting Jason P. Howe's new book, "COLOMBIA: Between the Lines." It is available in both a standard and a limited edition through Howe's Conflictpics site. Here is a write-up and a few of Howe's images from the book. WarShooter wishes Howe well.
Nervous policemen patrolling an oil rich border town, a wounded Government soldier lying next to his dead colleagues, a rebel couple kissing, displaced families building new homes and a self confessed killer reading her daughter a bedtime story; these are some of the characters that inhabit the shadowy and dangerous world in which photojournalist Jason P. Howe immersed himself over a period of 5 years to document the Colombia behind the headlines.
Sensational news stories and cold analysis insulate us from the reality of daily life for the thousands of Colombians that have taken up arms and the millions that have fled their homes to escape the violence. These stark images reduce the decades of conflict to the basic human struggle to survive. The difference between victim and victor, rebel and refugee, assassin and activist is often only a matter of perspective. The conflict constantly evolves as ideologies, politics, social injustice and most importantly greed continue to add fuel to a self perpetuating war that is resulting in one of the world’s worst and most under reported humanitarian disasters.
I no longer dream. The good news is the nightmares have faded as well. Three sleepless days out of the last ten, and counting….
(click the photo above or here to see Zoriah's photo series)
I catch an early helicopter flight from the Green Zone into Sadr City, Baghdad. The flight is uneventful although the Blackhawk helicopter does shoot out a series of heat flares, which are designed to repel rocket attacks by distracting the missiles from the aircraft by giving it another source of heat to follow. I never saw a rocket come near us, but that makes little difference, it still feels like a close call.
I arrive at Combat Outpost Old Mod and watch the helicopters fly away. This will be my home for the next few weeks. Old Mod is a compound of Iraqi buildings which used to be the Iraqi Ministry of Defense Complex. Now, the buildings have been fortified and house primarily Iraqi Army troops and a US Army MITT (Military In Transition Team) who are tasked with monitoring and training their Iraqi Army counterparts.
I am told that the day before my arrival a dump truck full of rockets exploded nearby and took out several city blocks of homes and killed dozens. They suggest that this could mean a possible upturn in violence in the area, but that the cease-fire brokered between the US and Muktad El Sadr may provide the opposite effect. Only time would tell.
Life around the camp is typical. There are frequent and sustained power outages and people learn how to live in the dark. Meals are eaten by flashlight, and ghostly LED torches illuminate the gym. The hallways are dark, with spikes of light near the few open doors.
The guards pass time resting on sandbags and it feels like boredom must be one of the hardest aspects of life here. I have to remind myself that choices were made by these individuals and not by the Iraqi people. What I have seen outside the bases far surpassed the minimal discomforts experienced here.
As the sun goes down and the temperature cools to about 100f/37.7c, soldiers wander outside and start up games of basketball, play cards or just walk around to escape their drab living quarters.
I am so exhausted I can barely walk, so anywhere I can sleep is fine with me. I have to charge my batteries, attach a few extra Kevlar panels to my vest and prepare the rest of my gear…at any moment all hell may break loose. Being ill prepared is not an option.
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